The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has created a Center for Population Health Data Science with the goal of linking public health, healthcare, and social service data.
“Data is much more than numbers on a page,” said Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan, M.D., Ph.D., in a statement. “Data sounds alarms, spurs action, and drives planning, programs, and policy in health. It is our superpower in public health, and has quite literally saved lives. We learned during COVID-19 that we must build on and accelerate our citywide public health data infrastructure, and this is the first step.”
The city’s vision is to build a citywide population health data system to advance understanding, excellence, action, leadership; that accounts for the whole of data modernization as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; meets users’ needs and advances equity; and drives planning, programming, and policy across New York City.
Over time the Center initiative aims to develop consistency, compatibility, and interoperability so that myriad types of data, whether from routine clinical care to public health surveillance activities to community programs, can be shared, matched, and used to advance citywide population health goals and to combat the central challenge of declining and inequitable life expectancy in New York City. The Center will focus on communicable diseases and outbreaks as a part of emergency preparedness and response readiness, but also chronic health conditions and mental health concerns that are impacting lifespan and health span in New York City.
The Center will focus on strengthening and build new capabilities, including:
- Data visualization and communication;
- Forecasting and modeling;
- Matching and analysis of different data streams
- Data governance, privacy, and interoperability, and
- Leveraging Artificial Intelligence in support of the recent citywide AI strategy released by Office of Technology and Innovation.
Initially the Center will house the Division of Epidemiology and direct all workstreams within the Data Modernization Initiative, with further development occurring in phases.
The Center will be directed by Mamta Parakh, who will serve as the department’s inaugural Chief Population Health and Data Officer. Most recently, she served as Vice President and Head of Product Management and Data Products at Wider Circle, a national Public Benefit Corporation that develops community-based health and social support networks for underserved Medicare and Medicaid members.
Gretchen Van Wye will serve as the Deputy Director of the Center and as the agency’s Chief Epidemiologist. She has been with the department since 2005, Most recently, she served as the Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Epidemiology, where she co-led the agency’s Data Modernization Initiative and the agency’s burgeoning AI strategy.